As you’d now know, the Retreat trekkers completed their walk on Saturday morning. They got up early and commenced the final ascent to Ower’s Corner. With a false peak blocking the view of the gateway signalling the end of the walk, it is not til they rounded a corner close to the top that they saw the ‘finishing line’ just ahead of them.
The porters were waiting for them at the top, singing as the trekkers passed under the archway. Bernie walked through last, bringing an end to 9 years of Centacare Kokoda treks.
The trekkers were met by a bus loaded with sandwiches, beers and bubbly, upon which they feasted before heading to the Gateway Hotel via Bomana War Cemetery. By midday, they were relaxing with coffees and hot chips at the Gateway.
Most of the group arrived back in Adelaide on Sunday night, and were met by a big crowd of relatives, friends, fellow walkers and supporters. No doubt they enjoyed their own beds and hot showers last night.
Thank you for taking this journey with us over the past three weeks. It was good to be able to pass on to the K12s so many messages of love and support from home.
If you’d like to support the Tribute or Retreat team for their tremendous effort or contribute to the fundraising efforts of a particular Tribute or Retreat trekker, you can visit these pages by clicking on the trekkers name below.
As you would know, the Tribute trekkers have now returned from PNG, and no doubt enjoyed their own beds (and showers) last night.
Meanwhile, the Retreat trekkers arrived at Isurava battlefield on Saturday afternoon, where they set up camp. They had a leisurely domestic afternoon with plenty of time to enjoy the monument, where they would have held a dawn service this morning.
In an indication that yesterday’s walk wasn’t as wet and slippery as what the Tribute trekkers encountered last week, Bernie reported that Zorana made it all the way to Isurava battlefield without a speck of mud on her pink socks…but then it rained, heavily and for a long time.
The plan for today is to walk to Templeton’s Crossing, via Alola and Eora Creek, although for the next few days they will play it by ear a bit in terms of how far they walk and where they set up camp.
Bernie called at 11am on Saturday 15th from Isurava Village. The Retreat trekkers are all well.
They left Kokoda at about 4pm on Friday, and walked for one and a half hours to Hoi. While this part of the Track isn’t particularly steep or hilly, it is somewhat open at this point and Bernie says it was hotter than at any point over the past week and a half.
They spent last night in Hoi, which is reportedly as beautiful as always. As they were having tea there was a bit of a downpour – a few leaky tents, but not too bad. This morning they walked to Isurava Village via Deniki – they are all talking about how hard that climb was, which is of great satisfaction to me and, I’m sure, all others who have done the walk from Kokoda and had to deal with the trekkers who’ve done the Track the other way saying “hard? there’s no steep climb there!
This is a smaller, quieter group than the Tribute trek group. So far they’re walked at a fairly steady, easy pace. Ben has been wandering around in awe, wishing he had brought more camera batteries. Alice has been excellent, bringing enthusiasm and careful attention to detail to her role as medical officer, ensuring everyone takes the right drugs and dishing out advice as required. Peter is enjoying the lack of city sounds and, in particular, the lack of phones. Brian is loving the jungle but still can’t believe he has people putting his tent up for him!
The trekkers expect to arrive at the Isurava battlefield around 2pm today. Some of them hope to walk up to the B Company positions. The others will surely spend the afternoon enjoying the magnificent view while reflecting quietly on the sad significance of this most beautiful, moving site.
I’ve passed on the footy results but I’m sure the trekkers are also keen to hear from friends and family, so keep the messages coming and I’ll pass them on when possible.
I heard from Bernie again this morning and all is well.
As at 11.30am SA time, 14 of the K12s are on a plane on their way back to Port Moresby, and 12 are bouncing their way to Kokoda in a truck. For those doing the math – Brenton has decided that back-to-back was a silly idea after all, so he has opted to head back to PoM with Anne and the rest rather than joining the Retreat trekkers for the walk back to Ower’s Corner.
As mentioned in the last update, the Retreat trekkers will arrive in Kokoda then start walking to Hoi in the early afternoon. This will be a gentle* but beautiful start to their walk.
(*gentle in actual, normal person terms, none of this crazy “oh it’s just gently undulating” walking language)
I heard from Bernie last night and this morning, and from Pauline in PoM last night. Everyone is well and it seems things are finally going to plan!
Yesterday, the bulk of the group finally got to Buna. This involved 4 hours of the most bumpy, squashed ride ever. They took a break in Popondetta en route, and a soccer game provided some welcome relief from the cramped truck ride. During the course of their 4 hour adventure, I understand they ran out of petrol twice; again, standard PNG fare.
Upon arrival in Buna, they were welcomed by locals dressed in full traditional regalia. Some of the trekkers then opted for a longboat ride to Sanananda (which probably would have been slightly more relaxing without the 1.5m waves). It was an adventurous day; lots of waiting around and bumpy truck rides probably doesn’t constitute the greatest way for the Retreat trekkers to start, but I’m sure they’ll get into the zone later today when they start walking on the Track.
By 7pm last night, they were all dry and having tea in a nice hut overlooking the ocean. At that point they were not optimistic that the truck would get back from Popondetta in time (3am) for them to meet the plane, but they did end up getting to Popondetta as planned this morning and, in any event, the plane time was changed so that Pauline and Brian S didn’t fly out of PoM til 8.30am, meaning the K12s who are not doing the Retreat will likely fly out from Popondetta to PoM around 9.30 this morning. Those trekkers will spend tonight at the Gateway in Port Moresby before flying home tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Retreat trekkers will walk from Kokoda to Hoi today. From memory, this will only take them 1 – 2 hours, and they’ll likely get in to the lovely village of Hoi after lunch.
I just had a call from Pauline, who is relaxing with a coffee at the Gateway Motel in Port Moresby. This morning, Chris Adey flew out, Pauline went to the airport to collect Peter’s bag, which didn’t arrive with him on Tuesday, and Lyall met up with some local friends before heading home.
As for the K12s heading to the Beaches: one of the guides Pauline spoke to in PoM said he thinks they’re still stuck in Kokoda, but Pauline’s friend Cecily, in Kokoda, thinks they’ve left Kokoda – so who knows?! Hopefully, they’re at or en route to the Beaches. At this stage they’ll probably only visit Buna, as they then need to be back at Popondetta by about 7am tomorrow to get their flight back to PoM.
This afternoon, Brian Schumacher will arrive in Port Moresby, and he and Pauline will spend the afternoon touring around PoM with a guide. They (and Peter’s bag) will then fly to Popondetta tomorrow morning to meet the rest of the group and distribute additional Leukoplast tape, fungal cream and video camera memory cards (which Brian kindly packed last night) to the back-to-back trekkers and – perhaps as importantly – supplies of cheese, Vegemite and mayonnaise to Cecily (essential items the villagers cannot buy in Kokoda!).
Pauline reports that it was hot and sunny in Kokoda yesterday – hopefully that means the Retreat trek will be a bit less wet than the Tribute trek. The Tribute trekkers’ spirits were given a real boost by the arrival of Alice, Ben, Zorana, Paul and Peter yesterday, with their bountiful energy and enthusiasm. Ben was taking lots of photos and Alice took over drug duties (making sure everyone was taking their anti-malaria medication etc.), in between general excited bouncing around the campsite.
We may not hear from the group tonight due to a lack of battery and reception, but whether they’re at Buna or Kokoda I understand that they’re enjoying the break before flying home or commencing the walk back over the Track to Ower’s Corner.
As you’d now know, the Tribute trekkers finished their walk at Kokoda yesterday. They then camped at Kokoda last night. Most of the Retreat trekkers arrived in Port Moresby yesterday and stayed at the Gateway Motel last night.
Today, the plan is for the Retreat trekkers to fly to Kokoda, and for the whole group (minus a few who have opted not to do the beaches and to head straight back to Port Moresby) to then get to Popondetta by truck, and then head to the Northern Beaches.
As of 9.30am this morning, the scenario is textbook PNG: the plane from Port Moresby has been delayed because of low cloud over Mount Bellamy, and the trucks coming from Popondetta have been delayed by breakdown. But all being well, the K12s will be in Buna tonight.
Some of the Retreat trekkers departed Adelaide bright and early this morning to join their fellow K12s (in their muddy, wet, stinky glory) at Kokoda or Popondetta (depending on where the plane can land in the wet conditions).
Pauline, Alice, Zorana, Ben, Paul and Peter were farewelled by a small, bleary-eyed crew, and arrived in Brisbane mid-morning. They had a 3 hour wait for their next flight and will arrive in PNG later today. Brian Schumacher heads off on Thursday, and the rest of the Retreat trekkers are already in PNG as they are doing the Tribute + Retreat option (Bernie, Brenton, Sam, Catherine, Lindsay and Julie) – I wonder what they’re thinking about that decision now!
Most of the K12s who are coming home after the Northern Beaches will arrive in Adelaide on Saturday evening (15th September), and most of the rest of the group will return on Sunday 23rd September…so we’ve still got a while to go; I do hope you stay tuned and keep those messages from home coming – especially for those who are not even quite halfway through their adventure yet!
If you wish to support the Centacare Kokoda Challenge team’s fundraising efforts you can visit the sponsorship website at http://www.everydayhero.com.au/bernie_victory or by downloading the donation form here.